28mm: Comparing WWII models

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It is indisputable that war has been under continuous change over the centuries with evolutions in arms, tactics and scale. Soldiers themselves have also changed from era to era, owing to changes in diet, fitness standards and healthcare. The size of soldiers have also been used to promote propaganda of superiority for one nation over another, often falling back on nationalistic or stereotyped perceptions of one country’s peoples over another. Thus, photos like the one above from the Boxer Rebellion are instructive but potentially do not tell the whole story of how an entire nation’s soldiers may have measured up against their allies and enemies.

A 1986 paper on the physical characteristics of US soldiers in 1864, 1919, 1946 and 1986 depicts the average World War II era US male soldier to have been 5 feet 8 inches tall and about 155 pounds. There can also be no doubt that within these averages there was a great deal of variation from man to man and at what point in their service they were measured. So, while we may be able to get at some sense of the size of the average fighting man in World War II’s US military, each man was an individual.

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Historical miniatures gamers spend a lot of time talking about scale, and I have fielded WWII miniatures from numerous manufacturers in 6mm, 15mm and 28mm while also occasionally playing in 20mm with other collectors at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. For my recent projects, I’ve focused on 28mm US Airborne and German forces with models from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games.

I’ve sourced my 28mm WWII miniatures from three separate makers for a few reasons. Firstly, I prefer metal figures for their durability, heft on the table and quickness in getting them painted up and ready to play without a lot of assembly. Some modellers will blanch at the higher cost of metal, but my opinions of pluses justify the investment. I also prefer not to duplicate poses, so purchasing across manufacturers allows me to have every model be a unique representation of a soldier or officer in the field. Third, although some outstanding plastic options are available, I like the detail that comes through with a good metal sculpt and casting. Finally, Black Tree Design in particular runs weekly sales which makes frequent orders of their miniatures a great deal when looking to field a sizable force from any number of available WWII Axis and Allied nations.

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28mm US Airborne NCOs from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

By way of comparison, I’ve first taken a few images of US Airborne figures from the three manufacturers I use and also seem to be the most commonly cited within the WWII gamer community. In the first photo above, three NCOs stand side-by-side. The figures from Artizan and Warlord on either end show similar details in equipment and bulky helmets. The Black Tree model in the middle shows slightly less detail in the netting on the smaller helmet and carried equipment, but his pose calmly smoking a cigarette makes him one of my favorites.

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28mm US Airborne riflemen from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

In the second photo above, I’ve got three riflemen in slightly similar battle-ready poses. Again, the Artizan and Warlord figures on each end are a bit more bulky and the bandage pack strapped to the helmet of the Artizan figure creates some nice variety. At the middle, the Black Tree soldier’s standard helmet without the camouflage netting likewise breaks up the sameness of how the soldiers are kitted out without sacrificing a single bit of detail.

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Equipment detail on 28mm US Airborne riflemen from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

Having a look at the equipment detail at the rear of each manufacturer’s models is also useful in the picture above. Again, the models from both Artizan and Warlord are most burdened with packs, multiple ammo pouches and canteens. The Warlord figure is also toting a shovel at his left hip and even more extra pouches. On the other hand, the Black Tree soldier is traveling a bit lighter with only a canteen to one side and an ammo pouch on the other. I take the differences in equipment as representative of different soldiers who lost, dumped or acquired more equipment depending on their specific roles and points in their mission.

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28mm US Airborne riflemen from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right) in front of a M4A3 Sherman from Rubicon Models

Next up, the photo above takes on the often-argued topic of soldiers and armor scale when playing at 28mm. The three riflemen stand in front of a M4A3 Sherman from Rubicon Models. To my eye, the tank does seem a bit undersized for its listed 1/56 28mm model scale when set next to soldiers from three different companies.

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The M4A3 Sherman from Rubicon Models and a US Willys Jeep from Warlord Games

Comparing sizes of vehicles across two manufacturers also depicts a fair amount of difference in perceived scale. One of my recently completed US Willys Jeep models from Warlord sits next to the Rubicon Sherman in the photo above. While the tank looked small against standing infantry, the Jeep looks to be a bit better at scale.

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A photo from near the end of WWII in featuring captured German officers and US GIs in a US Jeep next to a US tank

By way of comparison, historical miniatures gamers like me often rely on WWII period photos to show variations between troops and vehicles. The photo above depicts a US Jeep alongside a tank toward the end of the war in Europe. Despite the documentary nature of photographs, they can be deceptive in representing reality in terms of the angle, perspective and depth of field from when the photo was taken. Compared to my Jeep and tank models, the photo does inform a bit about real-world scale. My model Jeep’s hood measures up at a height about equal to the treads on the tank model. That said, the historical photo perhaps doesn’t present the full story given the placement of the Jeep in the foreground with the tank behind.

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28mm German infantry from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

Aside from my US Airborne models, I also have a good sized collection of German troops. Most of these are from Artizan and Black Tree, and I’ve only just recently added some Warlord Grenadiers armed with assault rifles to the mix. In the first photo above, I have three soldiers walking forward, guns at the ready. The partially camouflaged Grenadiers from Artizan and Warlord on either end flank a Wehrmacht soldier from Black Tree at center. With these figures I find little difference in scale and sculpt across manufacturers, and only their differing equipment, uniforms and weapons set them apart.

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Equipment detail on 28mm German infantry from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

Above I have some rear detail of equipment carried by soldiers from each maker. In the case of these soldier models, both the Black Tree and Warlord kit are my favorite both in detail and how it hangs from their backs and sides back with a shovel, mess kits, water bottle,s ammo pouches and rolled ponchos or bedding all included. The Artizan model is only carrying a couple items and his pack is a bit larger than that on the Warlord model, but all three form a diverse compliment of presentation.

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28mm German officers from Artizan Designs and Black Tree Design (left to right) in front of a Warlord Kubelwagen

For comparing Germans to a vehicle, I’ve got officers from Artizan and Black Tree alongside a Warlord Kubelwagen. The officer from Black Tree is perhaps a bit broad with his sculpting but no less animated as the Artizan model who stands confidently with a battle plan and hand firmly on his left hip. The driver from Warlord sits well with scale of the standing soldiers, and the two officers look as though they would fit nicely in the rear of the car to be chauffeured to the front.

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A WWII photo of German officers conferring in and around a Kubelwagen

As with the US vehicles, I’ve found a historic photo for comparison with a variety of officers and soldiers standing and sitting in and around a Kubelwagen.These real life men and their small car reveal the accuracy in the models I’ve got ready for the table.

No pictures, whether taken from WWII or snapped on the workbench, are going to tell the full story of how men and machines stack up. Modellers and gamers will gravitate to a mix of models that fit their tastes in cost, material, sculpt, diversity and historical accuracy as they see fit for their use. That said, when I have a look at my 28mm metal armies recruited from three leading manufacturers, I find them all well-equipped and scaled to take the field together.

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A Place To Play: The Brooklyn Strategist

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The Brooklyn Strategist was opened several years ago by Dr. Jon Freeman, a clinical psychologist, neuroscience researcher and life-long game fan. Situated along the main drag of Court Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, has quickly grown to be a go-to gaming space for the Brownstone Brooklyn crowds of kids, families and adults.

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Board games, card games and gaming accessories line the walls

The original storefront space of hardwood floors and exposed-brick walls holds a number of tables (including a stunning Sultan custom table from Geek Chic), shelves of games and accessories for sale, and a small coffee and snacks bar. In the spring of 2015, the store doubled in size next door. The new space added about a dozen more tables to accommodate the expanding children and adult programs, tournament events and growing miniatures gaming community.

The core of The Brooklyn Strategist is in its after school programming, and a packed regular schedule of events is also offered every day and night of the week. Magic: The Gathering card games are featured Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Mondays also showcase ongoing Star Wars X-Wing play, and other X-Wing events are held periodically with hosting by the NYC X-Wing group. Scrabble and chess take over Tuesday nights, and opportunities abound for Dungeons & Dragons and other RPG games Wednesdays and Saturdays. Hundreds of games are on hand to pull off the shelf to play.

Paying your way at The Brooklyn Strategist is a great deal with a $10 walk-in fee, individual memberships at $25 per month, couples at $45 per month and family packages at $60 per month. Each level of membership comes with a package of discounts and perks which encourages a solid community to fill the space all week long.

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The expanded miniatures gaming selection includes Flames of War, Games Workshop, Star Wars X-Wing, Battle Foam cases, paints and other popular lines

This past weekend I had the opportunity to sit down with Colt Johnson who has worked hard for a year to expand the shop’s interest in miniatures gaming. Johnson said the miniatures scene is focusing right now on the “five food groups: Malifaux, Infinity, Warmachine, Games Workshop and Flames of War.” Over his time working at the store, the miniatures scene has grown from maybe a dozen players on a weekend afternoon to 40 to 50 packing the tables on a busy day. Organized miniatures tournaments, events and pick-up games rage on the tabletop battlefields, and players new to the hobby can drop in and whet their appetites using beautifully painted 28mm loaner models on hand in display cases throughout the store.

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Miniatures gaming and painting gears up on a recent Saturday

A Warhammer 40K escalation league just kicked off with nearly 40 players signed up to play over the coming months. On the day I was there, 40K was very much in the air. A group of players from Staten Island were settling into their first games on some beautiful tables packed with terrain. One table over, a young girl who recently hosted a birthday party for 15 other girls at the store sat painting up her latest plastic goodies from Games Workshop. As the dice rolled, a phone call came in from someone who had just moved to the city and was looking to play some 40K.

Sci-fi and fantasy miniatures gaming clearly has a big following at the The Brooklyn Strategist, but historical gaming is newly on the rise. The popular World War II 15mm game Flames of War is a recent addition to the store’s minis mix, and this past weekend also presented a demo game of the 15mm Cold War-themed Team Yankee. WWII at 28mm with Bolt Action and even some 18th-century Blackpowder gaming is also on the horizon.

While growing every aspect of miniatures gaming, Johnson is hoping to push into even more historical gaming as both a hobby and way to create excitement for local kids and adults around learning about history through gaming and modelling. No matter the game, period, theme or level of experience, everyone who finds their way to the tables at The Brooklyn Strategist will find themselves in the right place.

The Brooklyn Strategist is located at 333 Court Street in Brooklyn, NY 11231 (a short walk from the F/G train at Carroll Street). Contact them at 718-576-3035 or check them out on their website or Facebook page. For news on the miniatures scene at the shop, check out their separate wargaming Facebook page.

Flames of War: Metropolitan Wargamers Tanksgiving 2015

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For the third year running, we’ll be hosting a day of armored Flames of War tank battles on Sunday November 22nd, 2015 at noon at Metropolitan Wargamers in Park Slope, Brooklyn. This year we’ll be taking over the entire back room of the club running multiple Late War Europe games using 1900 points of armored forces on a side. US, British, German and Soviet armies will rolling and fighting on tables filled with beautiful terrain, so experienced players can bring their own forces or newcomers are welcome to just come along, push some armor, roll some dice learn the game.

You can check out the photos below from our previous Tanksgiving events from 2014 and 2013, and more photos and after action reports can be found at the links in the captions.

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Soviet and Hungarian armor collide in one of the five games from Tanksgiving 2014

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US and German forces clash during Tanksgiving 2013

This year’s Tanksgiving 2015 will be held at Metropolitan Wargamers at 522 5th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn (enter through basement level). Visitors pay just $15 and regular club members are free. The event will be a great opportunity for new people to meet some of us at the club and experience the New York City’s premier wargaming community. If you’d like to come, RSVP via our club’s Yahoo group.

Flames of War: Fielding the 15cm sFH18 Heavy Howitzer Battery

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The long-lived and commonly-found 15cm sFH18 howitzer was fielded by German forces from the 1930s and all through World War II. Tough to haul and a lesser weapon than many of the large artillery pieces fielded by Allied forces during the war, the German gun nevertheless went through several wartime design iterations and served multiple nations in post-war decades.

I’ve been in the home stretch of getting ready for my Flames of War Sint-Oedenrode scenario at the upcoming HMGS Fall In! convention, and getting some big German 15cm sFH18 howitzers finished was the last on my to-paint list. FOW offers a beautiful box set of the German heavy artillery battery, featuring four guns, crew, staff, command, spotting teams and individually-sculpted resin bases. The set of models is a bit pricey, but given the heft of models and their usefulness in so many German army lists, the battery is sure to pay off over time.

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With so many parts in the box, getting organized from the get go is key. After cleaning up and dry-fitting all the pieces, I get everything glued up. After drying, I use wood filler to cover the spotter and command bases and to also hide any seams where the figures glue into the cast resin bases. From there, my usual German painting scheme in greys over flat black primer plus other details makes finishing the models move pretty quickly.

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Parts get cleaned and organized before assembly

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Glued models with filler being added to the bases

IMG_6862Base coats painted on the guns, uniforms, bases and ruins

As with most of the big sets of FOW models, the details on the models is a lot of fun. The intensely-posed four-figure vignette of the staff team in their little bombed-out bunker is a new favorite of mine. Even with repetitive gun crew figures, each unique base makes the whole battery just varied enough at arm’s length and are certain to make an impact when the Axis next hit the table.

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Flames of War: Fielding the US M1 57mm Anti-Tank Platoon

m157mmIt was clear to the Allies from the early years of World War II that German tanks were a big problem. From the early Panzer models to the medium Panthers and finally to the famed Tiger I and Königstiger, German armor combined with German tactics were major threats to Allies forces throughout the war.

To help counter the German armor threat on the battlefield, the Allies quickly evolved their anti-tank weaponry. Building on earlier. lighter guns, the British introduced the “6 pounder” early in the war. Even before entering the war, the United States began production of its version with the M1 57mm anti-tank gun which it exported for use by UK and Soviet forces. Despite the gun’s mixed effectiveness against the strongest German tanks and only occasional use against infantry, the M1 57mm became the standard Allied anti-tank gun of the war with some 15,000 produced.

I’ve previously modeled the British 6 pounder version of these guns for Flames of War, but I wanted to add some of the American M1 57mm models to my miniatures arsenal ahead of the Sint-Oedenrode scenario I’ll be running at the upcoming Fall In! convention in November. As luck would have it, a member of Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY was getting rid of some extra packs of the models and I picked them up on the cheap.

Getting these assembled, painted and ready for the table was a quick process. After gluing everything up and covering the bases in a layer of filler putty, they got hit with a basic olive drab spray base undercoat. Flesh and equipment details got picked out, and skin was topped off in a flesh wash. The guns themselves received a brown wash and a lightened green highlighted brush coat. The bases were flocked, I added little bits of shrubby and then everything got a matte spray finish.

The resulting four guns and two command stands gives me a lot of flexibility to add these to a lot of forces throughout the late war period I generally play. As a ubiquitous gun on the battlefields of World War II, these M1 57mm artillery pieces are certain to be making a lot of appearances in my games to come.

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Flames of War: Fielding the 8.8cm FlaK 36 Platoon

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One of the most common, flexible and deadly weapons used by German forces in World War II was the 8.8cm FlaK 36 gun. Building on earlier models from the late 1920s and early 1930s, the piece could be used for both anti-aircraft and direct anti-tank fire. Known commonly as an “Eighty-Eight,” this iconic artillery was encountered on battlefields from Africa to the Eastern Front to the coast of Normandy in both fixed defensive positions or in support of mobile ground forces.

FOW88flakI’ve been away from modelling any Flames of War miniatures for a while, but I’m planning on running a couple historic beginner games at the HMGS Fall In! convention in Lancaster, PA in early November. One of the scenarios, Sint-Oedenrode, requires some 88s, and I’ve long relied on loaners from other members at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. I figured it was high time I add these weapons to my 15mm collection, so I ordered the set from my go-to supplier The Warstore and the box arrived in just over a day.

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The models, including two metal 88s, a resin Sd. Kfz. 15 command car, two resin Sd. Kfz. 7 half-track tractors and a ton of crew and bits, glued up quickly on the marvelous cast scenic bases I’ve come to expect from FOW designers. My German painting goes pretty quickly with a black spray primer coat followed by some dark grey brushed on as base for uniforms, vehicles and guns.

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Log emplacements, ammo boxes and equipment get painted up in coats of varying browns and greys. The gun and vehicle grey basecoat are washed in a dark brown and then followed up with some highlights in dry-brushed silver, light grey and brown muds. The huge shells scattered on the ground and fresh rounds in the arms of the crew are done in metallics, and the vehicles are detailed with decals. The final touches are done with static grass applied with white glue around the bases and a few sprays of matte finish to protect the models and dull down any remaining shine.

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IMG_0781In all, the entire platoon took me a couple hours. As with most FOW models, there’s a lot of personality, poses and details in this kit. I love the commander’s stance with binoculars aimed at the horizon and his junior officer reaching for his bag. The main gun bases and the extended separate bases of extra crew make each piece a little diorama of its own. By carefully applying grass to certain areas, I was able to blur the line between the bases, making them appear as one big piece with a quick look. Of course, along with the detail in the models does come some cost, but the usability of these models in so many FOW games makes adding the 8.8cm FlaK 36 platoon a fantastic long-term investment.

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Getting Ready For HMGS Fall In! 2015

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FALL IN!™ 2015 (Nov. 6 – 8)

Convention Theme: “Campaign of the 100 Days”

Lancaster Host Resort & Conference Center

Lancaster, PA

Less than two months from now, a number of us from Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY will be attending this year’s HMGS Fall In! convention the weekend of November 6-8, 2015 in Lancaster, PA. I, some fellow club members and my brother have a variety of games from different periods we’re presenting in several scales, and the events will be geared toward a variety of levels of gamer experience from beginner to veteran.

Here’s a rundown of our scheduled games so far which you can find along with hundreds of other games listed online in the convention’s event list.

Friday, November 6th Events

F: 351 Rivoli – 1797 – 1:00-6:00 PM

Period: Napoleonic, Scale: 10mm, Rules: TBD

Re-fight the Battle of Rivoli that crushed the first coalition and set Napoleon on a trajectory toward consulate and empire. Will 23,000 French repeat their historical victory over Alvinczi’s 28,000 Austrians? Or will Napoleon’s rise end in the fields of Piedmont? A follow-up to the truly spectacular award-winning Battle of Marengo on a custom-built terrain board from previous HMGS conventions which you can view here.

F: 257 Battle Of Waterloo 200th Anniversary – 3:00-8:00 PM

Period: Napoleonic, Scale: 15mm, Rules: Home Rules

Play one of the greatest battles in history on the 200th anniversary — Waterloo. Napoleon’s French attack the Anglo-Dutch army led by the Duke of Wellington. Time tested home rules perfect for anyone new to Napoleonics or for experienced players. Fast play for convention yet with all the detail and pageantry of the era. This game is being run by my brother who presents games of the Napoleonic Wars in 6mm, 15mm and 28mm with gorgeous hand-crafted tables and his beautifully painted figures, so this one will also be a treat.

F: 374 Barkmann’s Corner – July 17, 1944 – 4:00-6:00 PM

Period: World War II, Scale: 15mm, Rules: Flames Of War

It’s the summer of 1944. Famed German tank ace Ernst Barkmann is rolling through Normandy commanding his Panther and looking to halt the Allied advance. Amid the bocage of the French countryside, a US armored column encounters Barkmann in a showdown at a crossroads which will become legend. A great learning game for people new to FOW (including kids with adults). I’ve run this short scenario before (report and pics here) and it’s a blast to play if you like pushing tanks around the table.

F: 377 A Peaceful Exchange Of Prisoners…Hopefully. Wheeling, VA, 1777 – 6:00-10:00 PM

Period: American War for Independence, Scale: 25mm, Rules: Muskets And Tomahawks

A British/Indian delegation during the American War of Independence has arrived in wheeling to discuss a prisoner exchange. Both commanders hope the exchange goes off everything might go off without a hitch, and everyone might go home happy. But this is a wargaming convention, so don’t count on it. Winning will require negotiation, flexibility, deceit, and the element of surprise. Each player has his her own victory conditions. A club member who is a college instructor with expertise on American Colonial warfare is running this game, so it’s sure to be laced with colorful historic narrative.

 Friday (night pick-up game): Churchill’s Nightmare – 8:00-11:PM

Period: World War II, Scale: 1:200, Rules: Naval Home Rules

Can the British home fleet stop the German breakthrough into the Atlantic?

Saturday, November 7th Events

S: 376 St. Oedenrode – September 17-24, 1944 – 2:00-6:00 PM

Period: World War II, Scale: 15mm, Rules: Flames Of War

It’s the autumn of 1944. As part of Operation Market Garden, the US 502nd Parachute Infantry regiment has parachuted into Holland and seized an important bridge on the Dommel river at St. Oedenrode. Rushing to counter attack are German Fallschrimjager regiments supported by artillery and armor. Can the allies hold the bridge until reserves arrive or will the axis rush to retake the objective? A great learning game for people new to FOW (including kids with adults). This is another scenario I’ve run several times before (report and pics here), and I’m also working on some new models to bring along in time for the convention.

Saturday (night pick-up game): Engagement in the Mediterranean – 8:00-11:PM

Period: World War II, Scale: 1:200, Rules: Naval Home Rules

Can the British Mediterranean fleet stop the Italian fleet?

Come to Fall In! and meet the Members of Metropolitan Wargamers

We’ll also be planning to run other games including two games based on the 1980s movie classics Mad Max and Red Dawn. You will be able to spot the members of Metropolitan Wargamers wearing our new club shirts celebrating over three decades of gaming in New York City. We’re certain to have a some other surprises at the convention, so sign up for Fall In! and we’ll see you in Lancaster in November.